National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
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FY 1987

Cataclysmic hydrothermal venting on the Juan de Fuca Ridge

Baker, E.T., G.J. Massoth, and R.A. Feely

Nature, 329(6135), 149–151, doi: 10.1038/329149a0 (1987)

Serial observations of individual submarine hydrothermal vents and the mapping of dilute hydrothermal plumes extending far downcurrent from vent fields indicate a stability of vent field fluid composition and mass flux on at least decadal time scales. The inherent episodicity of ridge-crest tectonic activity, however, suggests that discontinuous emissions of hydrothermal fluids also occurs. In support of this hypothesis we report here the discovery of a 700-m-thick, 20-km-diameter eddy-like "megaplume" created by a brief but massive release of high-temperature hydrothermal fluids near 44°49N, 130°140W on the Juan de Fuca Ridge. The megaplume had a mean temperature anomaly of 0.12°C and overlay compositionally distinct plumes emanating from an apparently steady-state vent field at the same location. The megaplume was formed in a few days yet equalled the annual output of between 200 and 2,000 high-temperature chimneys.

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